Friday, May 13, 2005

Is This Thing On?

OK, I guess Blogger managed to stumble through their planned and unplanned maintenence today. I was forced to do the same (maintenence, that is), rushing across town to pay a water bill--the second in a row that threatened imminent cut-off, thanks to the local water company adopting a loan shark style of fee collection...ok, maybe not a broken leg, but they tend to cut people off on Fridays...and, of course, being more "efficient" than the public sector, they're off on weekends.

I'll see if I feel like cranking anything else out before the weekend begins...after dealing with traffic here, which lends a whole new meaning to the term "requires remedial education," I'm just going to try to relax for a few minutes...
Lifetime Achievement Award

I'm not sure what planet The Note was viewing from, but their fawning report on the Tom DeLay Memorial Dinner was about 180 degrees from what I watched on C-Span. Far from being "well done and seem[ing] to serve its purpose," my own impression was political wake--although Tom's corpse still twitches a bit...

When Bob Livingston is a featured speaker, the "message" isn't exactly one of sticking around and fighting.

Grover Norquist seemed to set the tone--in his absence:

Absent from the dais was one of Mr. DeLay's most outspoken defenders, Mr. Norquist, who was listed in the program as a sponsor. Earlier in the day he described the event as an important show of support for the majority leader.

But Mr. Norquist was not visible at the dinner and seats at his group's table remained empty. Nor was there any high-powered representative from the White House at the event.

The level of protest outside the Capitol Hilton was refreshing. A "carnival" invited people to spin a DeLay wheel of fortune (IIRC, one spin stopped either on 'lobbyist pays for your trips' or 'hire daughter and pay her $500,000'), signs asserted "DeLay is Slime," and plenty of the GOP polyester crowd looked uncomfortable as they filed in for their $250 dollar filet mignon, salmon, salad, wine, and dessert.

Now, I'll admit, I couldn't handle LISTENING to the show once it began--so instead, I muted the sound and read the closed captions. Still, here are several things I made mental notes of:

DeLay is about as photogenic as a dead armadillo. There was a bio-pic feature and whoever produced/edited the thing must've been hard up for ANY footage of The Hammer that suggested even a moderate degree of humanity. In the end, they settled for a shot of DeLay as Goober, mouth half open, not quite grinning, but at least not looking like he was about prey upon a small child.

A great deal of effort was made to project Tom as a family man, but his body language on the dias suggested the opposite.

The folks in the bio-pic attesting to Tom's character looked like...well, like salesmen from...Texas.

Tom's address, which hardly deviated from his standard stump speech, seemed shallow and tired--again, I was reading, not listening, so perhaps he managed to wring out a few rounds of applause with his particular brand of hate--but his body language was that of someone seriously contemplating the sunset, and his riding towards it.

It's possible that DeLay will stick around for a while--his schtick still sells in Texas--not quite to the extent it once did (though when that fails there's always the old-fashioned method of holding on, namely, larding on the pork in the district)--and the blind loyalty/lemming nature of the modern GOP offers him a chance to hold on to his position of national leadership. But I think Tom is seeing the end of the line. If I was a DNC operative, my strategery for 2006 would put Tom under the magnifying glass. The Hammer would quickly be revealed for what he really is--The Bug Man. And bugs don't fare all that well when you focus an intense beam of light on them.

From Attaturk, posting at Eschaton, this revealing Charles Krauthammer quote:

Democrats have not had a very good run recently in the popularly elected branches. Since choosing the wrong side of the culture wars of the 1960s, they have won only three of the past 10 presidential elections.

Oyster lets us know who Krauthammer supports in said culture wars:

In November of 1960, a six year old girl was escorted by four federal marshals to William Frantz Elementary in New Orleans. The little girl's name was Ruby Bridges, and she braved threatening, hateful throngs of parents and children who did not want her to become the first black student to attend an all white school in the Deep South. The angry white mob shouted racial obscenities, threw stones and rotten fruit and eggs at the girl and her escorts.

One mother vowed to poison her (and would continue to do so nearly every morning thereafter: "I'll find a way" she yelled.) So-called "Chearleaders" chanted "2-4-6-8 we will never integrate", and so on. Fortunately, this loathsome display was captured on film, and broadcast to other parts of the country which put further pressure on defiant Louisiana segregationists.

Nuff said.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Coming to America

Good for George Galloway--after tweaking Tony Blair soundly on his growing nose, the Respect Party MP will have the chance to do the same to Senator Norm Coleman (R-Idiot).

British MP George Galloway says he is ready to face down US senators who claim he received oil rights from Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Mr Galloway denies claims by a Senate committee that he and a former French minister were allowed to sell Iraqi oil to reward their support for the regime.

The committee said it would be "pleased" for Mr Galloway to appear at a hearing in Washington on 17 May.

The MP accepted, declaring he would take "them on in their own lions' den".

He told the BBC: "I'll be Daniel and I'll be triumphant".

The Scotsman had this nice quote:

Mr Galloway described the Senate committee as a “lickspittle Republican committee, acting on the wishes of George Bush”.

Here's hoping that Coleman gets the pranging he deserves.
Today's Bombing

Yeah, just another day for Operation Clusterfuck:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Militants assassinated a general and a colonel who were en route to work Thursday, and a car bomb exploded near a busy market and movie theater in eastern Baghdad, part of a wave of attacks that killed at least 21 Iraqis and wounded more than 70, authorities said.

Out in Anbar province, 2 Marines were killed and 14 were wounded--while Raed Jarrar mentions that Japan and Bulgaria are now distancing themselves from the rogue state--he also cites a CS Monitor article that would outrage any American citizen, if they weren't either outraged fatigued or thoroughly GOP lobotomized. Among other things, the Monitor states outright that the oil-for-food "scandal" was all but officially condoned by Washington for years prior to Norm Coleman suddenly getting all itchy...and the other, lesser known fact that "contractors" outnumber remaining "coalition" forces by upwards of three to one (50 to 75 thousand contractors versus 23 thousand soldiers):

Peter W. Singer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of 'Corporate Warriors,' estimates that there are 20,000 to 30,000 civilians in Iraq performing traditional military functions, from maintaining weapons systems to guarding supply convoys. If you add foreigners involved in reconstruction and oil work, the total soars to 50,000 to 75,000.

To put this into perspective: All of Washington's allies combined account for 23,000 troops in Iraq. In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, Singer quips that "President George W. Bush's 'coalition of the willing' might thus be more aptly described as the 'coalition of the billing.'"
Yellow--No, Orange!--No, Red!--Wait, no--Orange!

You'd have to see this to truly get the level of absurdity--and if you want to, it's available at C-Span's main page.

Last night I tuned away from local fluff news just in time to capture the moment--Scott McClellan somehow sounded even more incoherent than usual, while the White House sheep press nodded and bleated--but looked suitably grave.

And what was this all about? a student pilot veering off-course:

The scare started at 11:28 a.m., when the Cessna was picked up by Federal Aviation Administration radar headed west by southwest, toward Washington from Maryland, as it approached a restricted air zone that is roughly the shape of a Mickey Mouse hat and covers the 23-mile area around each of the region's three major airports.

Mickey Mouse is about right. Let's see--it took almost an hour before anyone bothered with something so simple as TRYING TO CALL THEM ON THE RADIO:

The government response planes initially had trouble communicating with the two men. Ultimately, after the Black Hawk helicopter read the identification code on the plane and transmitted it to air traffic controllers, the pilots were reached and told to make an emergency landing.

The plane left the restricted air space around the capital by 12:24 p.m. and after being led by military escort, it landed at a small airport in Frederick, Md., about 15 minutes later.

This country is truly getting whacked.

Saw this at Rising Hegemon, who further cites DailyKos and David Sirota:

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are [a] few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 11/8/54

Ike certainly knew how to spot stupid:

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Three Faces of Tut

Wednesday Science:

CAIRO, Egypt — The first CT-scan facial reconstructions of King Tutankhamun's mummy have produced images strikingly similar to the boy pharaoh's ancient portraits, with one model showing a baby-faced young man with chubby cheeks and a round chin.

That model, one of three released yesterday, bears a strong resemblance to the gold mask of King Tut found in his tomb in 1922 by the British excavation led by Howard Carter. The beardless man depicted in the mask has soft features and a weak chin, and his eyes are highlighted by thick eyeliner.

The beardless youth depicted in the model, created by a French team, has soft features, a sloping nose and a weak chin — and the overbite, which archaeologists long have believed was a trait shared by other kings in Tut's 18th dynasty. His eyes are highlighted by thick eyeliner...

The three teams created their reconstructions separately — the Americans and French working from a plastic skull, the Egyptians working directly from the CT scans, which could distinguish different densities of soft tissue and bone...

The French and Egyptians knew they were re-creating King Tut, but the Americans were not even told where the skull was from and correctly identified it as a Caucasoid North African, the council said in a statement.

"The results of the three teams were identical or very similar in the basic shape of the face, the size, shape and setting of the eyes, and the proportion of the skull," Hawass said.

The French and American models are similar — with the Americans' plaster model sharing the more realistic, French silicone version's receding chin and prominent upper lip. The Egyptian reconstruction has a more prominent nose and a stronger jaw and chin.

I'll let you decide for yourself which one looks closest to the "real" Tutankhamun...



Sow, Reap

Two from Steve Gilliard--the first, an account of some of the fighting in Anbar Province, i.e., Iraq's empty quarter, which shows just as much resistance as Baghdad--or more:

JARAMI, Iraq, May 10 - Screaming "Allahu Akbar'' to the end, the foreign fighters lay on their backs in a narrow crawl space under a house and blasted their machine guns up through the concrete floor with bullets designed to penetrate tanks. They fired at U.S. Marines, driving back wave after wave as the Americans tried to retrieve a fallen comrade.

Through Sunday night and into Monday morning, the foreign fighters battled on, their screaming voices gradually fading to just one. In the end, it took five Marine assaults, grenades, a tank firing bunker-busting artillery rounds, 500-pound bombs unleashed by an F/A-18 attack plane and a point-blank attack by a rocket launcher to quell them.

The Marines got their fallen man, suffering one more dead and at least five wounded in the process. And according to survivors of the battle, the foreign fighters near the Syrian border proved to be everything their reputation had suggested: fierce, determined and lethal to the last.

And, over in Afghanistan:

JALALABAD, Afghanistan - Shouting "Death to America!" more than 1,000 demonstrators rioted and threw stones at a U.S. military convoy Wednesday, as protests spread to four Afghan provinces over a report that interrogators desecrated Islam's holy book at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Police fired on the protesters, many of them students, trying to stifle the biggest display of anti-American anger since the ouster of the ruling Taliban militia 3 1/2 years ago. There were no reports of American casualties, but the violence left four dead and 71 injured in Jalalabad, a city 80 miles east of the capital, Kabul.

Mobs smashed car and shop windows and attacked government offices, the Pakistani consulate and the offices of two U.N. agencies in Jalalabad. Smoke billowed from the consulate and a U.N. building. More than 50 foreign aid workers were reportedly evacuated.

The protests may expand into neighboring Pakistan, where a coalition of hard-line Islamic parties said it would hold nationwide demonstrations Friday over the alleged desecration of the Quran.

The wingnut bluster--all the tough talk (albeit with little action on the part of true nuts--they don't actually JOIN the military) didn't account for such things as extended occupations, "collateral damage," etc. Nor did the wingnut bluster ever reflect upon the absolute insanity of lumping all residents of either Iraq or Afghanistan into the category of "enemy." As a result, we really DO have an extensive number of people in both countries, as well as the rest of the region, who hate us...since 9/11, we've killed at least seven times as many Iraqi civilians and who knows how many Afghans. But, of course, the United States "doesn't do body counts."

I wonder if we're going to do any postwar analysis now that we've lost.
Halliburton Bail Out Bill Sweeps Through Senate
Bush expected to sign it immediately

Whew! That was close--the Senate voted 100-0 on an additional $82 Billion dollar appropriation for the GWOT Halliburton shareholders' relief--bringing the grand total appropriated for Operation Go Fuck Ourselves to over $300 Billion dollars. Dick Cheney is breathing a sigh of relief from his secure, undisclosed location in the West Wing.

But, in a gesture of magnamity, the bill also demonstrates concern for the troops--a retroactive increase of almost tenfold (from $12,000 to $100,000) for families whose loved ones were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, along with additional money allocated for those suffering trumatic injuries--and an increased death benefit on their life insurance policies. Well, they sure know how to look out for them.

In other news, three more Marines now qualify for these increased benefits--and almost 400 Iraqis were killed in the last two weeks alone...but I guess the pro-war crowd no longer cares about the dead Iraqis.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


For your viewing pleasure, here's James Howard Kunstler's ongoing review of abysmal architectural--which he refers to as the Eyesore of the Month.

Here's a good example:

Hmmmm. This typologically ambiguous building in Pflugerville, Texas (just north of Austin) is the K-through-6 medium security education facility. It's encouraging to know that the inmates were slated for "early release" this year. Ask yourself: what kind of citizens would an institution like this produce? And where do they go from here?
Thanks to Jan Kaluza of Austin for finding this gem.

See for yourself.
Scratch & Dent Body Armor

From Cursor. How's this for quality control?

Proving that you don't have to be a major big city newspaper known for investigative scoops to get dramatic results, a probe by the Marine Corps Times apparently triggered the recall of more than 5,000 ballistic vests issued to Marines despite tests indicating they might be flawed.

Many of the vests were issued to Marines in Iraq. The reporter on the story told E&P today that officials tried to "steer" him away from the story.

"Faced with the imminent publication of this story, the result of an eight-month investigation by Marine Corps Times, the Marine Corps on May 4 issued a Corpswide message recalling 5,277 Interceptor vests from 11 lots that failed government ballistic performance tests — slightly more than half the total vests issued to Marines from questionable lots," Christian Lowe, a Times staff writer, wrote in the weekly.

On the other hand, though, it appears that about 10,000 vests of questionable quality are out in the field, with little chance of being replaced (unless, of course, they fail to perform their function). According to the article, the vests were issued to soldiers between February and August 2004--which means, among other things, that some might already have failed...though no one really knows for sure.

Oh, and speaking of body armor--it's not just US troops that are wearing it in Mesopotamia...
High Traveling

I clicked on this Fred Gardner article expecting either a well-reasoned, rational argument for some aspect of legalization of hemp--or a depressing report about how drug law lunacy resulted in someone being thrown into the clink...

Instead, imagine my surprise when the focus turned out to be Rick Steves--host of a travel program I've occasionally caught on PBS when little else is on the tube. Turns out, Steves is a member of NORML and spoke at a keynote address at their annual convention:

When you think about taking a trip, you can take a trip with your marijuana or you can take a trip with your passport. It's kind of fun to take a trip without having to travel. Just put me in a nice location with a National Geogrpahic and a joint and I'm climbing Mt. Everest. That travel is really quite cheap if the dollar's too low... And you can do your actual travel and mix some appreciation of marijuana into that and it becomes kind of super-travel.

Yet, super-travel for some results in less-than-four-star-accomodations:

750,000 Americans were arrested last year because of marijuana, 88% of them for simple possession. Our country blew 7 billion dollars on this. This should be a conservative issue. We can talk about the European solution. Fifteen years they've been experimentingwith treating marijuana as a medical concern rather than a criminal one. Even crusty, conservative law enforcement types like it this way. We need to pre-empt the discredit. They're going to say: You're for children abusing drugs? No, we're not for children smoking pot, we're not for hard drugs, we're not for driving when you're high, none of that stuff. But you need to pre-empt that because they'll try to discredit you right away... Responsible adult use is okay, but nobody's talking about kids getting easy access to pot. We need to shoot off that torpedo before they torpedo us with it.

People think advocating for NORML is advocating for breaking a law. It's not. It's advocating to change a law -and that's a very fundamental difference. I'm not saying to smoke pot. I'[m saying it's wrong to arrest people who want to smoke pot as mature adults, or for medical use. We're not saying break the law. I want to support NORML publicly like I support travel. I think it's a matter of freedom. I think it's recess, and we need it in this society.

Steves concludes:

Being high to me is a little like Cuba. Any time my government says I can't go somewhere, I feel it's one of my rights to go there. My government can't tell me I can't go to Cuba. Everyone else is going to Cuba, why can't I go to Cuba? And I don't think my government can tell me what I can do as a responsible citizen in the privacy of my own home. We need to challenge our friends. It's frustrating to me that there are so many potsmokers out there who don't even put two and two together. To me, NORML is not a charity, NORML is a service.

So, happy travels, even if you're just staying home.

In spite of being excerpts, the speech isn't short--but it's worth looking at. Steves manages to incorporate any number of issues into an overall theme that makes a lot of sense.
No Miracle for Christ

It's tough times for Jesus Christ:

CHARLESTON, West Virginia (AP) -- Even Jesus Christ can't circumvent the rules for getting a driver's license in West Virginia...

Described by his attorney as a white-haired businessman in his mid-50s, Christ is moving to West Virginia to enjoy a slower lifestyle. He bought property near Lost River, about 100 miles west of Washington, and has a U.S. passport, Social Security card and Washington driver's license bearing the name Jesus Christ.

But he still falls short of West Virginia title and license transfer requirements because his Florida birth certificate has his original name on it and he has been unable to obtain an official name change in Washington.

"We just need official documentation that that's his name," said Doug Stump, commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles. "He will be treated no different than anybody else."

Christ applied for the legal name change in May 2003, but it was denied by District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Tim Murphy because "taking the name of Jesus Christ may provoke a violent reaction or may significantly offend people."

In his appeal, Christ's attorney argued that Phillips had changed his name to Jesus Christ 15 years earlier, and "has been using the name since then without incident."

Any comment from the man in the middle of this legal tussle?

"Christ is not speaking to the press at this time," Pishevar said.

No word on whether Christ has applied for a fishing license.

Monday, May 09, 2005

One-Two Punch

Spent this afternoon working on a new anti-virus'd been set up last week by a couple of our new guys, but...

I was a new guy over here once, so I'm not going to holler.

The machine is now in place, properly set up, and ready to work--with one little exception. The Remote Access tool we use is considered by the latest and greatest version of Symantec to be a massive security threat.

IF it'd been installed surreptitiously, yeah, sure, it'd be awful. But the software is installed quite deliberately--it makes looking after over a hundred machines a hell of a lot easier. So...time to call Symantec.

(for the record, it's not just a matter of excluding a couple of folders and executables. The software installs a service, registry keys, .dll's, etc.--and ALL are quarantined right away, rendering it useless. Very fortunately, our existing anti-virus server still works well--we were actually being, um, pro-active in testing a replacement. We'll see what Norton can do to help us out).

Anyway, enough work woes. The one-two is the Krugman Rich pair of op-eds in the New York Times.

It's late over here, and chores await, but two things are worth noting--Rich's observation that Laura Bush's debut, as it were, occurred almost exactly two years after her husband, then the flight-suited ubermann, had his cock-of-the-walk moment in the sun...two years, and roughly 1300 dead US soldiers later (not to mention uncounted Iraqi casualties).

Krugman points out that all of us--well, most of us--are now obscenely rich, according to Bush's plan to "save" Social Security, which is the financial equivalent of "saving" Fallujah by blasting it to the Stone Age. "Hell hath no fury like a scammer foiled," is Krugman's beginning. That's right: Team Bush is pissed off because the public has taken a decided lack of interest in his brand of snake oil...

Both op-eds are worth a look.

Now, work at home awaits me...
The Mark of the Beast Shrinks a Bit

Saw this first at Counterpunch--Cockburn recalls the minor embarrassment when the Reagans changed the address of their post White House abode...but it turned out to be unnecessary:

Satanists, apocalypse watchers and heavy metal guitarists may have to adjust their demonic numerology after a recently deciphered ancient biblical text revealed that 666 is not the fabled Number of the Beast after all.

A fragment from the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament, dating to the Third century, gives the more mundane 616 as the mark of the Antichrist...

"It's a number puzzle -- the majority opinion seems to be that it refers to [the Roman emperor] Nero."

Revelation was actually a thinly disguised political tract, with the names of those being criticized changed to numbers to protect the authors and early Christians from reprisals. "It's a very political document," Dr. Aitken said. "It's a critique of the politics and society of the Roman empire, but it's written in coded language and riddles."

Well, as far as I'm concerned, the mark of the beast is still...W.
Catching Up

Not that there's anything more than coincidence here, but while I spent the weekend more or less internet-free, reading Rising Tide--which means another hat tip to Oyster, who had a couple of posts on it a short while ago (it's a VERY good book, btw--a history of the Mississippi Delta Country and New Orleans, with the 1927 flood being the equivalent of a center piece).

Anyway, while I was being old-fashioned with book reading, James Wolcott got busy, roaring back after a few fallow days with several must read pieces.

Already, based on his links, I've looked at a Molly Ivins op-ed that excoriates the Bush administration's nonsense masquerading as an energy policy...Molly nails it when she likens the head-in-the-sand reaction to global warning, complete with wingnut snikering, as the "Beavis and Butthead attitude on the subject," which is one thing when coming from idiots who are mere pawns, but quite another thing when espoused by members of Congress...

Moving on, via a Wolcott link to DC Media Girl, I saw the Vanity Fair write up on James Gukert ("Guk" rhymes with "cook"), which, if nothing else, proves that News of the Weird is now the normal mainstream fare in the 21st Century.

Another must read link--changing the subject pretty dramatically here--is a Common Dreams piece about independent versus "embedded" journalists...well, I don't know if the term "embedded" was used, since the matter at hand was Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the year was 1945. But even then, standards were standards, and censorship was censorship...

There's also a congrats to George Galloway (in contrast to a guest blogger at TPM rueing the selection), and, to conclude with a direct quote, a solid smack at the notion that Dubya will be more inclined to support any part of the Tony Blair agenda, given how badly Blair took it on the chin for sticking with the dauphin:

To reward Blair and express his gratitude, Watson said, don't be surprised if Bush bends a little on issues significant to Blair, such as global warming and international aid.

Allow me to hazard a counter-prediction.

George Bush will do fuck-all nothing about global warming.

He may exercise his tonsils and make concerned noises, but he will dedicate himself no more vigorously to global warming than he has done for the last four pissed-away years. Like his party and the rightwing media that pimps for it...Dubya places religion over science, refuses to acknowledge that global warming even exists as a planetary peril, and has never shown the slightest interest in conservation, mass transport, or anything else that might prevent the paving over of every inch of countryside. He would plant oil rigs in Arlington Cemetery and shovel straight through the bones of dead soldiers if reserves were discovered beneath the rows of white crosses, and chainsaw the last tree in the rainforest out of pure spite. (Just this morning USA Today ran a frontpage piece about new rules that will enable more logging of national forests. I mean, could the current energy bill be more ghastly and backward-looking?)

As for international aid, Bush will probably approve greater expenditures and outreach only if there are religious riders and other strings attached. No condoms and contraception information, etc. He's a great believer in abstinence, although his daughters probably aren't, bless their little thongs.

Hasn't Watson been listening and watching? In the past few years we've heard that Bush would show some "give" on issues significant to Blair, but if he didn't do it then, why would he do it now? To display largesse? He is a stingy man for whom largesse is a sign of weakness. Bush has the privileged soul of an inveterate ingrate. He may appreciate all Blair has done, but deepdown he feels that this is only what he and the U.S. deserved.

After all, Putin supported Bush in the war on terror, and for his pains has seen Bush and the neocons do everything they can to sandbag Russia and escalate the arms race. Putin, no fool, adapted accordingly. Blair never detached from the mind-meld, his messianic gaze the mask of a tragic dupe.
War Hero

YRHT links to Tiny Revolution.

Kim Phuc is the main focus of one of the most famous--or infamous--photographs ever taken.

Kim Phuc was nine years old on June 8, 1972, when her village, Trang Bang, in South Vietnam was bombed. Burned by napalm, she ran down the road screaming in fear and pain. Associated Press photographer Nick Ut captured her terror - and with it the horror of an entire conflict - and as his picture was published around the world, it probably did more than any other image to contribute to the ending of the Vietnam War.

Showing remarkable fortitude and character, Phuc is determined to turn her horrific experience into something good. Check out the interview with her--she could teach us all an awful lot.